Aug. 6 COVID-19 Update

Aug. 6, 2020  

Expanded Stage Two Regathering Guidelines for Communion, Pastoral Visits, Baptism, Youth Ministry

The bishops of both Massachusetts Episcopal dioceses have jointly issued expanded guidelines for Stage Two regathering that provide protocols for the administration of Holy Communion, pastoral visits and Holy Baptism.

The full document, "Expanded Guidelines for Stage Two: Holy Communion, Pastoral Visits, Holy Baptism," is available here.  A version in Spanish will be available soon.

These guidelines are a supplement to "A Journey By Stages" issued in May.  They pertain specifically to Communion, pastoral visits and Baptism.  All other protocols of Stage Two remain in effect, provided they are in accordance with state and local public health directives.  Those directives are subject to change at any time, and local circumstances continue to vary widely; therefore, the bishops underscore that, while protocols for cautious administration of the sacraments are authorized at this time, no congregation is under any obligation to undertake them.  Every congregation should be prepared to return to the restrictions of previous stages in the event of future surges or positive tests and contact tracing within the congregation.  Congregations should continue to make inclusion and support of their most vulnerable members a key factor in all decisions about regathering and sacramental ministry.

Also now available is a document of supplemental Stage Two guidance for meetings among youth group participants in the Diocese of Massachusetts.  It includes sample regathering covenants for youth and parents/guardians.  Find it here.

Discussion on Expanded Communion, Pastoral Visits, Baptism, Youth Ministry Guidelines

Next week, Canon to the Ordinary Bill Parnell and Youth Missioner H. Mark Smith will host a series of Zoom conversations about the expanded guidelines, open to clergy, wardens and youth ministers.  Zoom links have been e-mailed directly to them.‚Äč

  • Tuesday, Aug. 11, 4:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 12, 4:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Aug. 13, 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Watch for "Pandemic Impact Survey" in September

Recognizing that many congregations have been affected financially over recent months, the Diocesan Council will be distributing a Pandemic Impact Survey to all congregations in September, to help assess the best course forward in addressing financial concerns.  More information about the survey and other financial matters is provided in a letter to congregations from the Executive Committee of Diocesan Council.  The letter also provides word of continued work on shared mission strategy, and encouragement for ministry in the days ahead.  Read the full letter here.

COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund Grants

Thank you to all who have donated to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. To date close to $230,000 has been awarded to nearly 60 congregations and communities across the diocese for salary and utility support, outreach to local communities and technology upgrades to facilitate live-streaming of worship.   

Applications are due by the end of the day on Saturday, Aug. 15 for funds currently remaining. Find the online grant application here.  This grant program will be temporarily suspended following the Aug. 15 grant cycle.  Future announcement will be made regarding the resumption of Emergency Response Fund grants upon replenishment of available funds.

Contributions to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund are earnestly sought and gratefully accepted.  Such support may be made here.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Since there are still many questions surrounding the reopening of schools, this is a good time to be reminded of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) which provides for extended employee leave for pandemic-related reasons. Qualifying reasons for leave include quarantine or advice to self-quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19; COVID-19 symptoms while seeking medical advice; caring for an individual who is in quarantine or self-quarantine; caring for a child whose school is closed or whose childcare provider is unavailable due to the pandemic. Organizations with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. A summary of the FFCRA is available here . Each covered employer must post in a conspicuous place on its premises a notice of FFCRA requirements. A one-page poster about the FFCRA is available here.